I just watched it again. Now, I have a long history of attempts to grow into this movie. It has so much of what I enjoy blended into it; I've always thought that it might 'click' one day. Unfortunately it hits all my 'bad-bad' buttons throughout. I've never been a fan of overly florid, artsy productions, especially when they use flashing colours and shifting patterns to imply dreamy states, or higher levels of this-or-that. Zardoz is full of this sort of thing, and I could never see past it to determine whether there's a good movie hidden amongst the "woooo-wooo-ooogie-ooogie".
I'll state for the record that, in my final opinion, there isn't.
There are good bits, Sean Connery being one of them, but the splatteringly pretentious execution of the sociopolitical angle made the whole experience garish and intolerable. I think that it was trying to make some sort of heavy-handed comment about the decadence of modern life, how it leads to apathy and disconnectedness, and maybe even how we try to distance ourselves from our bestial natures, yet still keep the religious and violent brutes around to do the dirty work. In the end, I didn't care so much. I wanted to see something a bit more grounded, yet along the same line, like the similar (yet entirely killer) 1970 James Franciscus vehicle, Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
Honestly, if it works at all, it works as a scathing critique of modern liberal excess and self-delusion. Having moved recently from Seattle to a small town on the prairie in North Dakota, a sparse land of farmers and military vets, I look at the comparisons and laugh. Effete, pseudo-intellectual hipsters sitting in their Ivory tower condos just off the Microsoft campus, with their glasses of Pinot Gris, watching their TED lectures on their smartphones, looking down upon the red state gun-nuts, even as those same gun-nuts spill their blood to make the rest of the world effete and decadent...it's all too familiar.